Top 14 ways to save electricity at home and reduce your bills
By Stephen Marcus Thursday 04 February 2021
It’s easy to overlook the amazing benefits of electricity. We just flick a switch, or press a button and there it is, working away in the background to light up our lives. Electricity keeps everything going, without us needing to spare a thought. In fact, we probably rarely consider how much of the stuff we’re even using, or if we could perhaps rely on it just a little bit less.
But as we try to fight the climate crisis, making small tweaks at home is a powerful way to lighten our carbon footprint and make a difference. So why not take a closer look at your electricity use, and learn some quick and easy fixes to help you save power?
In this guide, we’ll show you an array of electricity-saving tips. From installing smart tech, to switching off appliances, find out how to save money and cut your carbon footprint at the same time.
First things first: how much electricity does the average household use?
The average home uses 2,900 kWh of electricity a year1. Since 2005, the amount of electricity used by the average household has been going steadily down2. This is because we’ve improved our homes and appliances to be better-insulated and more energy-efficient – so we don’t need to use as much energy to power our kettles and washing machines.
Top 14 ways to reduce your bills that you can start today
1. Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs
Switching to energy-efficient bulbs is an easy way to save shed-loads of electricity. The traditional types – known as incandescent bulbs – only convert 10% of the energy used to power them into light. The rest is lost as heat3!
If you replaced all the bulbs in your home with LEDs, each year you could cut your carbon emissions by up to 65kg4, and your bills by £405. That’s like planting a tree every 10 years – and all from just changing a few bulbs! And you don’t need to worry about replacing them, either – they have a lifespan of 34 years, compared to just 1.4 for incandescent.
To learn more, check out our ultimate guide to energy-saving light bulbs, and how to choose the best for your home.
2. Turn off appliances on standby
According to the Energy Saving Trust, the average UK household spends £35 a year on appliances left on standby6. This is because, when you leave devices like TVs or stereos on standby, rather than switching them off, they still use power. But there’s an easy solution – turn them off at the mains when you’re not using them!
Want to see how using appliances at different times could help you go more green? Check out our guide to grid efficiency and how it could help you cut your carbon.
3. Be more energy-efficient with your fridge and freezer
Clean the coils – it might not come top of the list of chores, but the coils at the back of your fridge get dirty over time. Wiping them clean can make a big difference in boosting the energy-efficiency of your fridge. According to the Consumer Energy Center, doing this could actually lower your fridge’s energy use by as much as 30%. Time to get scrubbing!
Keep them full – by keeping your fridge and freezer at least three-quarters full, you can make sure that they don’t waste energy heating empty air. But remember, don’t cram them too full either – this could stop air from circulating, which will also use more energy.
Change the temperature – by turning the temperature up a notch on your fridge and freezer, you can save energy, while still keeping your food fresh. The ideal temperature for your fridge is between 3˚and 5˚C, while for your freezer it’s minus 18˚C.
Don’t put hot food in – it might be tempting to pop your leftovers straight into the fridge or freezer to keep them fresh – but it’s better to leave them to cool first. As you’d expect, it will use a lot more energy to cool them down when they’re still hot – so it’s best to keep them to one side, ideally covered, until they’ve cooled down.
To learn more, check out our guide to energy-efficient fridges and freezers.
4. Be more efficient when cooking
As you’d expect, if you spend less time cooking, you’ll use less energy. So it’s worth thinking about how you can change your cooking habits when you’re making dinner. Try making these small changes:
Heat water in a kettle rather than on the hob.
Keep pots and pans covered, so your water will boil faster.
Don’t open the oven door more than you need to, as this will let unnecessary heat out. So check on your roast through the glass door instead!
For more tips, check out our guide to being more energy-efficient in the kitchen.
5. Wash your clothes on a lower temperature
Simply by moving down the dial on your washing machine, you can make huge energy savings. According to the Energy Saving Trust, washing your clothes at 30˚C will save you 40% of the energy used washing at higher temperatures. And a study by Which? found that if the whole of the UK switched to washing at 30˚C, it would cut 388,000 tonnes of carbon – the equivalent of taking more than 388,000 cars off the road.
Nowadays, modern detergents are able to get just as good results at lower temperatures. So there’s no reason not to make the change and start washing at 30˚C.
6. Air dry your clothes
If you have a tumble dryer, it can be tempting to use it all the time. But on a sunny day, it’s always worth hanging up your clothes outside if you can. They’ll dry quicker, and it’ll save you money.
Tumble dryers are one of the most expensive household appliances7, so cutting down will make a big dent in your electricity bills.
7. Use natural light
It might seem obvious, but opening the curtains can help to cut down on electricity. Of course, solar power is an amazing way to generate electricity – but just by letting in more sunlight, we can cut back on how much we use our lights indoors. Plus, it’ll give you an extra dose of vitamin D! And don’t forget to turn off lights when you’re not using them, as this can save you £15 a year8.
But remember, when it’s dark, it’s just as important to keep those curtains closed. This will stop warmth from escaping, so you can use less heating and keep bills down.
Want more control over your electricity? A smart meter can help you track your energy use, and make your home more energy-efficient. Book a free installation in 2 minutes.
8. Don’t overfill your kettle
If you’re making a cup of tea, only fill the kettle with the amount of water you need. This way, you won’t use any unnecessary energy boiling it, and your cuppa will be ready quicker. According to the Energy Saving Trust, this can save you £6 a year – which could buy you around 500 tea bags!
9. Buy energy-efficient appliances
Whenever you’re replacing appliances at home, you should always try to buy the most energy-efficient model. They’ll use far less energy, and will save you money in the long-run. For more advice, see some of our guides:
10. Take shorter showers
There’s nothing better than a long, relaxing shower. But if your shower is electric, or you have an electric boiler, they can notch up some serious additions to your electricity bill. Try cutting down the time you spend in there – or save longer showers for a treat at the weekend.
11. Use the microwave when you can
A microwave can tackle some tasks just as well as an oven – and it’ll take far less energy to do it. For instance, if you’re reheating soup, there’s no need to use the stove. Pop it in the microwave, and it’ll be ready in moments – and you’ll also see the difference in your electricity bill. Easy!
12. Get your appliances serviced regularly
You should get your appliances serviced regularly. That way, they’ll be working as safely and efficiently as possible. To learn more, see some of our other guides:
13. Invest in smart home technology
Smart home technology can help in 2 ways. First, it can help cut your energy use. By getting a smart thermostat, for example, you can schedule your heating or air conditioning to only run when you need it – and you can change it with the touch of a phone button if you get stuck on your way home.
Second, it can help you generate or store your own electricity. Whether it’s heat pumps, solar panels or thermal energy storage, there are lots of nifty ways to cut your bills, and lighten your carbon footprint.
Or how about getting a smart meter? A smart alternative to traditional meters, they come with an In-Home Display (IHD) where you can see how much energy you’re using at any time. It’s a great way to keep on top of how much energy you’re using, and cut back where you can. To learn more, check out some of our other guides:
14. Use the dishwasher instead – maybe
Dishwashers could be more energy-efficient than washing by hand. Surprising, we know! A study by Which? found that all the dishwashers they tested used less water than washing your dishes in the sink.
It depends on your boiler and model of dishwasher, but opting for the dishwasher could actually use less energy.
Make sure your home is safe, check out our guide on electrical safety around the home.
Time-based electricity rates
Time-based tariffs are another handy way to cut down your electricity bills. They have off-peak periods, where it’s cheaper to use electricity, so you can time when you use appliances, to save money. They can be appealing to electric car and plug-in hybrid owners, who can charge their car more cheaply overnight. Find out more about they work in our guides:
Plus, it’s also now possible to time your energy use to when the grid is greenest. With our new Carbon Intensity tool, OVO members can forecast when their energy will use the least carbon.
For more energy-saving tips, see some of our other guides:
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Sources and references
2 As per Ofgem analysis of BEIS, Energy consumption statistics in the UK (1970-2018) and BEIS, historical gas data: gas production and consumption and fuel input (1920 to 2016). https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/system/files/docs/2019/11/20191030_state_of_energy_market_revised.pdf
9 The renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on REGO certificates and how these work.